Students Experience 3D Learning for the First Time

Picture this: A perfectly planned investigation, no unusual chemicals to hunt down, eager students, no complaining, and all actively writing down their science thoughts……sound too good to be true? It is, but maybe not for the reasons you’re thinking.

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about introducing my students to 3-dimensional learning using the investigation “Reaction in a Bag.” Now that all my quizzes are graded I’ve decided to write the reflection over how my students did with 3D learning, the thoughts of my two teaching peers who taught this way for the very first time, and what’ll I’ll do better next time (and not just next year “next time”).

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Developing SEP Skills: Reaction in a Bag

The shift to 3-dimensional learning in science education not only means teachers need help and time to adjust, so do our students! How do we ready our students for this change? What’s the best way to do this? I’m not sure but I’ll tell you how I’m going to do it. Before my classes start diving into chemistry concepts I’m going to have them do an investigation in which the focus will be developing the skills necessary for using science and engineering practices (SEPs) to explain crosscutting concepts (CCCs). This way when we begin chemistry concepts we have a reference point. The disciplinary core ideas in this investigation are (hopefully) review for my students (matter is made of particles and energy flows). To do this, I’m going to take an old lab (Reaction in a Bag) and refine it to fit my needs. You’ll find everything below!

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Inquiry & 3 Dimensional Science Learning

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Don’t teach this linear method!

Teaching students how to “do science” using the old, linear scientific method is not truly reflective of how scientists study the world around them. The scientific method gives a false sense that there is a step-by-step process for how to approach research, including moving from analysis to conclusion without ever reinvestigating, retesting, and revising. Science learning is not a rigid process, it is much more fluid. What is a closer method for teaching science? Inquiry! Sometimes I think this word is used so much that it no longer sounds like a real thing.  Inquiry is simply an act of asking questions to gain information. Science education researchers have been looking into how inquiry fits with science learning since the early 1960s when Bob Karplus and J. Myron Atkin published a paper based on “guided learning” or more known as the Learning Cycle (Rebello & Zollman, 1998). Guided learning focused on exploration, invention, and discovery, and was mostly used at the elementary level. Over the next 30 years, educators noticed the lack in formal reasoning skills among secondary and collegiate level students so began applying the learning cycle at the upper levels as well. There have been many different models developed but all are based on the original learning cycle. One of the more common models used at the secondary level for science education is the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) 5E Instructional Model (5Es) lead by Rodger Bybee in the 1980’s. The BSCS 5E Instruction Model consists of 5 phases that all begin with “E” (imagine that 🙂 ): Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate (Bybee et. al., 2006). See the diagram below for more information about each phase. Continue reading